Project Trip October 2009

Wind Energy For Debo/Ethiopia 19th October - 26th October 2009

Group in front of Ambalay

  • Dipl. - Ing. Wolde Giorgis Demissie, Berlin (project leader)
  • Pfr. Dr. Jochen Hahn, Rüsseina
  • Lutz Mummert, Klessig
  • Christian Preuß, Rüsseina
  • Klaus Hundert, Röhrsdorf
  • Heinz Jansen, Berlin (Camera)


  1. Starting position, technical experiences and goal description
    1. Good News: Constant electric power on offer in Debo since 1 ½ years.
    2. Data about the previous daily energy consumption in Debo.
    3. Issue wind and wind performance and from it the resulting conception of an adapted design of the wind powered turbine installation.
    4. Objective account / planned performances in Debo October 2009.
  2. Mechanical preparation stage in Rüsseina / Germany
    1. Development of a new generator.
    2. Test of a newly developed rotor.
    3. Application of a new machine head with "helicopter storm setting“
    4. Test of a "low inverter“ as transformer substitute.
    5. Overload control engineering
    6. Description of the total technical system
  3. Transport to Ethiopia-dark clouds over the Ethiopian customs Heavenly-Action blown by a hair breadth
  4. Work project in Debo
    1. Adaptation of the Transformer station in the monastery grounds.
    2. Rebuild of the wind powered turbine.
    3. Installation of a water system in the Health Centre / hospital.
  5. Consumer habits, energy management, refinancing concepts, competing suppliers, extension plans
    1. consumer habits
    2. refinancing first draft and workshop
    3. the state electricity arrives
  6. Project costs
  7. Perspectives

1. Starting position, technical experiences and goal description

1. 1. Good News: Constant electric power on offer in Debo since 1 ½ years.

Since the supplement of the wind powered installation through a solar installation (1,4 KW) during the February action 2008, our installation in Debo virtually delivered electric energy without interruption for the health centre / hospital, street lighting, administration, individual school areas, workshop and church. We found out in advance that the two technicians had further equipped three streets with street lighting additionally to our own performance to the illuminating of the market. The wish for more power lines became clear. As the state power supply to the county administration offices in Mertule Maryam often experiences power cuts, the stable and efficient power supply to Debo appears especially attractive. Air picture of power grid

1. 2. Data about the previous daily energy consumption in Debo

On average, approximately 3-4 kW per hr. were used daily for light electricity in Debo. The solar installation (1,4 KW) produces approximately 4-5 kW per hr. with changeable sunlight, with full sun up to 8,4 kW per hr. per day. The results for the June, July and August which are rather poor in quantities of sun and rain are not yet known. The diesel generator didn't have to be put into operation very much at this time anyway.

1. 3. Issue wind and wind performance and from this the resulting conception of an adapted wind power installation.

It already became clear in 2007/08 that in particular the canvas wind turbine installation is not able to produce enough power in low winds. So the winds which frequently measure between 3 and 5 mph, cannot be not used, so that the installation brought in nothing for days, although winds of 3-5 mph. prevailed over many hours. The low air pressure at 2.600m decreases the performance of wind powered installations by approximately 18 %. Wind measurements, at 12 m, were already taken by data loggers from February 2008 to summer 2009. The measurements were conveyed to us at the end of 2009 and must still be appraised. It already drew us the picture from 2008 data that in the highlands of Ethiopia the wind maybe frequent, but (at 10 m) usually only low to middle wind speeds (2-7 mph.) are occurring. It became clear from previous experiences: That we require a wind powered installation, which can change wind into usable electricity from wind speeds of 3 mph.

That means, we had to re-programme into following direction:

  • Gearless technology
  • Use of a generator with higher performance at lower wind speeds
  • Use of a modern rotor, defined blades, diameters 4m
  • Use of electronic transformer, that even by low tension (revolutions per min.). Give a sufficient amount of current to the accumulator battery.
  • Simplification and minimization of the electric control engineering

Since the solar installation is over sized, until now the deficits of the canvas bladed turbine could be compensated for. This energy excess procures the advantage for us, that we can proceed in a relatively relaxed manner with work on the wind energy conception in Debo. The goal still stands, to continue testing whether an individual wind powered turbine technology system can contribute enough power, so that a minimized dimension of solar power unit (rel. expensive), can be relied on only as back up.


Solar powered units carry a very high taxation value and are therefore prohibitively expensive to import into Ethiopia. In comparison to the wind powered installations, of which 80% could be produced by hand in Ethiopia, which would on the other hand, contribute to the qualification of hand workers. The additional components still to be installed (i.e. generator, transformer, control switches) are not so expensive to bring through customs.

1. 4. Goal account / planned performances in Debo October 2009

We intend to carry out the following performances in Debo:

  • Rebuilding of the wind powered installation (changes of the machine head and the rotor); Adaptation of the electric and wind measuring arm,
  • Rebuilding of the transformer in the transformer station (substitute the old transformers for welded inverters); Adaptation of the control engineering,
  • Installation of a water pump in the well of the hospital with pipes and faucet.
  • Clarification of the extension of the installation, street lighting, private houses, financial reimbursement and regulation for consumers as well as formation of finance reserves,
  • Sale of re-chargeable lamps, 50 pieces. + 40 substitute re-chargers, to enable as many private people to receive light. Since there were no lamps available in Ethiopia because of the crisis, we wanted to introduce them.
  • Distribution of computers in the school, hospital and administrations, 5 laptops, of which 2 used; 1 tower (used) and 4 refillable laser printers, the computers were installed with Windows XP English.

2. Technical preparations in Rüsseina / Germany

2. 1. The development of a new generator.

Under lengthy, but very targeted attempts, we could develop a permanent working generator, that one can produce relatively easily by redeveloping a 16-poligen series engine. Data: with 340 rpm. s.s. 400 V rotary currents; Performance with 400 V: 4, 5 Kw (with 230 V 3 Kw); mass: 53 kg; virtually friction free; Costs of materials (at separate purchase of the components): approximately 700 Euro; waterproof.

2. 2. Investigation of a new developed Turbine

The companies "wind technology Heyde “(Dippoldiswalde, Saxon.) And "plastic processing” Dr. Vogel (Lampertswalde, Saxon.) developed a new Turbine blade. It is relatively broad and lends itself for lower speeds, (SLZ approximately 5,5). This three-bladed turbine, (made of plastic GfK, diameter 4 m), was tested in Rüsseina for the first time and distinguishes itself through outstanding running qualities with minimal sound.

2. 3. Usage of a new machine head with "helicopter storm setting“

This machine head, built by "Heyde" was tried on our generator and switches into security position (helicopter position) at approximately 11 m/hr wind. With the use of the new turbine as well as the new machine head, the total head mass could be reduced by more than 70 kg in comparison to the canvas turbine.

2. 4. Test of a "low inverter“ as transformer substitute

Until now, in order to raise the generator charge to 24v consistent current to the accumulator, we used a normal Drehstromtrafo 4 Kw in Debo. Apart from the disadvantage of the high mass, 80 kg in weight, this transformer begins to produce 24V when really 400 V comes from the turbine. Even with lower nominal input voltage provided, a normal transformer would not be effective probably since merely very low frequencies are to be won with low rotor speed. Now we are substituting the transformer with a simple inverter welder. That costs around 140 Euros, in comparison to a pro wind inverter for performance of 4 KILOWATTS which costs several thousand of Euro. The rectified rotary current of the wind turbine is sent into the inverters. On the actual direct current side (welded cable), we send directly to the 24v accumulators. (We operate 2 pieces parallel in case of overload). With sufficiently sized condensers current entrance and exit are smooth. The advantage of this technology: is it is cheap; it can be bought anywhere in the world. Each inverter weighs only 4, 5 kg. It has overload protection and cooling system built-in. Theoretically, two parallel current inverters can cope with a constant 150 A, without any problems. Above all, these inverters already begin to work with 130 V input. That means the wind turbine can already feed into the accumulators with quite low speeds,(in Rüsseina with 2,8 mph, in Debo 3,1 mph winds). During many months of testing in Rüsseina, the inverters worked completely undisturbed.

2. 5. Overload control engineering

In order to avoid an overloading of the accumulators, a new, smaller variation of the regulation trip switch, already installed in Debo, was built., (per erectile value counters). The overload is gradually carried over to heat elements (customary diving boilers; three each for rotary current, encased). We have also tried to use customary prefabricated parts.

2. 6. Description of the total system

The conversion of the complete system of converter and control engineering is so minimized that theoretically a well aired, dry room or area of 2x2 m is sufficient to work in. Switchboxes and welded inverters can also be bracketed on the wall, among them the accumulators and beside it, the water barrel (with air compatible materials this is not necessary). The Diesel back up generator must be able to send its exhaust fumes directly outdoors. With lead accumulators with liquid electrolyte, the accumulators must be stored separately in a well aired area, because of danger of explosion. In Debo, the system is accommodated into a clay construction with a metal corrugated roof. The electrics that were installed in 2007 in its compact mini containers are also in here (see picture under 4.1.).

3. Transport to Ethiopia. Dark clouds over the Ethiopian customs, heaven action burst by a hair breadth

As Ethiopia has no harbour, the only transportation available to us is over Air Cargo freight (via Berlin Tegel). Two self built wooden crates took up over 400 kg of freight. Transportation lists with declaration of contents and value had to be handed over well in advance. Also statement of the manufacturer including item numbers and invoice numbers must be included in the paperwork. This simplifies the dispatch preparations especially in Ethiopia. On German side, procedures run quite smoothly. Another problem came to light: The free import to Ethiopia. While in the past the Ethiopian Red cross contract allowed us to transport our crates (declared as gifts for the Red Cross) as duty-free into Addis Abeba, This year the Ethiopian Red Cross refused to make this declaration, (apparently, because "finances don't jump at them“ and though we were invited to hand over our donations account to the Ethiopian Red Cross, we declined.) There was still hope of a tax free import with a detailed certificate made by the Ethiopian Embacy in Berlin, expressing very clearly the necessity of a tax free import.

We travelled with Lufthansa, on the 10. 10. 09 from Dresden via Frankfurt/M. directly to Addis Abeba, (Fact: per person Luggage rate of 2 pieces of luggage up to 23 kg each!; costs of Pers. 750 - Euro).

Addis Abeba: Problems, problems, problems…

With our last attempts to get help from the Ethiopian Red cross, we were thrown into the quite normal craziness of the Ethiopian customs clearance. First, we spent 2 ½ days at Customs house, in the city centre, responsible for customs declarations. All transportation lists copied 10-fold, letters of confirmation of the district administration Mertule Maryam sent laboriously over internet, telephone calls, fax organization,(all of this once again far away from the customs). The certificate from the Ethiopian Embassy Berlin is ignored. "We will not let anyone push us around“). The letter from the district administration; Mertule Maryam helps, at least partly. We now come under municipal help and are not classed NGO. After long examination, the wind turbine components with transformer shift technology were declared Duty Free. The customs officer doesn't know what a wind turbine is. The administration mould can apparently not classify such components, presumably to our luck.

Despite our intervention, all our laptops, printers, accumulator lamps and substitute accumulators were not included in the Duty Free declaration.

The Duty Free declaration of these articles must be applied for personally at the Airport customs. Until then, we had passed at least 25 offices, each in 5 min. takt. Nothing would have been possible without the sniffer dog nose and the unbelievable persistence of Wolde Giorgis Demissie.

A Taste of Ethiopian Customs

Short protocol of 1 ½ hours in corridors of the city centre official customs offices on day 2, (In the corridors and in the offices there was a continuous jostling, pushing in, pushing forward, loud babbling , waiting applicants, and everywhere mountains of filing).

  • Rooms 3-14 (building 2): we meet the head boss in front of the door. We ask for exemption from customs duties of all articles. Boss handles us in 1 min. „the co-workers are responsible for it “. 
  • Room. 306 (buildings 1): Deputy Chief. Secretary handles us: The co-workers only do their duty “ 
  • Room. 411(building 2), head of department is in a meeting. We don't know what to do. We go to the office in room 3, to inquire about the present status of the process of our case. 
  • Room 3 (building 1): I have passed your records on to room 6 “. 
  • Room 6: Waiting, jostling…. no file to be found. Go to room 9 “ 
  • Room 9: Cannot be. No file. Go to room. 5 “ 
  • Room 5: No file. Go to room 7 “ 
  • Room 7: Yes, file was there. Now it has gone back to room 6 “ 
  • Room 6: Waiting, jostles… file now found. It was already filed under a stack of filing “If we had not asked, our case would have petered out. Until now still no work has been done on our case! , Go with an official to office 3. 
  • Room 3: No treatment, since the cover sheet form is missing “. Official We don't need it, since its not NGO but community help “. Secretary goes, with us scolding, back to room 6. 
  • Room. 6: Jostles, waiting, discussions… go back again to room 3. 
  • Room. 3: we ask about urgent processing. Time is running away! Suddenly, they want to try it. They are completely overloaded … 

We go for a meal. In the evening, (it is customs day No. 3), we actually get, after multiple inquiries, a certificate of Duty free declaration of the Wind turbine components and are for the moment happy.

Two days of bureaucratic chaos, fury and unconsciousness, payment of duty and release of the crates from the airport customs house.

Two full days and the long walk through at least a further 25 official offices was necessary to get our material crates released from the airport customs. … And at each desk the thrill of whether all could be brought to the ground by any one bureaucrat. Fundamental problem: Everyone that imports requires a TIN-Number (Toll Identification Number?). This can be applied for through customs. However, it can take days or weeks even? Larger relief organizations have such a number, also Ethiopian organizations, only we as a private group don't. After the big boss, who we had got friendly with, had approved the authorization of the import without TIN-Nr, of-course against pre-payment of 5 percent of the total commodity value, =500 Euro, the next official doubted it all. And again the next two days were filled with hoping and worrying. First the customs raised a charge of 1100 Euro, (particularly tax for the accumulator lamps and the substitute accumulators was declared to almost 100 percent of the original value). Shortly, before the crates should be released to us, another official began to question the customs and to check again and seized another 350 Euros. The laptops were not calculated to the real acquisition value in Germany but to the procurement value in Ethiopia, with which old laptops were almost classified as new.

The fury cooked within us. These were all donations, which we now had to pay almost doubled. An Ethiopian, that saw this, apologized for his country as the tears ran over his cheeks. As the crates were to be loaded in the evening of the 16.10.09, they were not to be found in the gigantic store. They had been standing outside in streaming rain for three weeks long! Opening of the crates and the content controls proceeded leniently: The official wanted to knock off and go home. Only one hour of postponement on this Friday evening-and our action would have failed for lack of time. Despite it all, we could still speak of luck on that occasion: A friend of Wolde, who we met at the customs, was already three weeks long trying to get a few Dung tests from the customs.

Tips for customs control

  • Make previous inquires as to what is, "customs-sensitive “. We would have substituted the accumulator lamps and accumulators and done without the laptops since they were only as an additional help. In hindsight, we were somewhat pampered and unsuspecting in this sense from the previous years. 
  • Although computers are clearly more expensive in Ethiopia than in Germany, because of the customs problems alone it is worthwhile to buy these merchandise in Addis Abeba. However a laptop per person can be carried along unregistered with the hand baggage. 
  • Payment levied for laptops is approximately 80 Euro per piece declared, PCs (tower) are duty-free,( why?). Each accumulator lamp (original value in Germany 16 Euro), is levied with approximately 13 Euro tax. 
  • A certificate from a commune stating, "we require this help urgently", therefore giving the status of the "municipal help “, apparently simplifies the Duty free declaration (opposed to the status NGO). 
  • Nevertheless the best remains: You have an official state partner organization (with TIN-Nr.), to which you officially donate the merchandise. Here, a pre-signed and sealed contract is necessary. 
  • And it is always worth remembering: It can all be quite differently again next year… 

4. Work project in Debo

4. 1. Refurbishing of the transformer station in the monastery grounds, 1¾ day (2-3 Pers.)

Building a new transformer container sometimes is easier than converting the old one. That's how it was for us in the electro station. We managed to accomplish the following:

  • Exchange of the 3 kilowatt rectifier (sine-similar tension description) for a sine rectifier 5 Kw, (brand: Berel). 
  • Disconnection of the previous Transformers and the previous overload regulator. 
  • Mounting of a new overload regulator. 
  • Installation of the 2 welding inverter (as transformer substitute). 
  • Dismounting and re-mounting of over load heat elements (utilization of the existing ones) as well as the installation of diving silks, that hang in a water barrel (old oil barrel). 

4. 2. URebuilding of the wind powered turbine, 1 ½ days (whole group)

Work went smoothly.

  • Dismantling of the old sail rotor as well as the machine head through our Ethiopian Technicians (as groundwork) 
  • Installation of the new head and the rotor 
  • Laying of new electric and measurement cables in the mast. 
  • Mounting of a wind gauge on the mast (now below the rotor) 
  • Expansion of electric modules (overload protection against over heating of the generator) and installation of overload heat elements at the mast "wind power installation Debo“ 

The wind power installation runs very well. Because of the low air pressure admittedly it requires a little more wind than in Germany to get started, (instead of 4, 5 mph now approx. 5-5,5 mph.) In a night with weak to middle winds, (average approx. 4mph), it could generate 3 Kw. The sail rotor would have maybe only generated 0, 4 Kw here since the wind had remained under 5 mph. The flow into the accumulators by means of the welding inverters proceeds continuously (therefore no "Stop-and-Go-flow “).

4. 3. Installation of a water supply in the Health Centre / hospital, 1, 5 days, 2 people, )

The question of a water supply in the hospital Debo was exciting, since we already knew for sure about the circumstances of the well. Originally, the school well was planned, however, bad water quality and the worry, that students may leave the water running constantly. A 900 watt - submerged pressure pump from the company Zehnder, with a pressure filter sensor and dry run protection was used. This was hung in the approximately 16 m deep well with approximately 4 m of water level. The plastic water pipe could be laid with the electric cable in a ditch (dug by Ethiopian helpers, wages 40 Birr per day = 2 Euro), right up to the front of the hospital building, all prepared earlier by Lutz Mummert and Helfried Vater in Germany.

The joy was great as with high pressure the water bubbled from the tap for the first time. It was amazing to see the nurses on that first day, again and again being drawn to the fresh water with excitement and joy.

5. Consumer habits, energy management, refinancing concepts, competition in power supplies, extension plans.

Installing technology is one thing but to awaken a consciousness and understanding of how to handle and make use of the energy is another completely different kettle of fish. Not to mention that a permanent working energy and finance management must be created. Here, we come up against more considerable problems.

5. 1. Consumer Habits

It is understandable that the people of Debo cannot properly assess, how much energy such a relatively small island installation is able to generate. Due to the actual energy excess, an energy saving consciousness was admittedly not well promoted, until now. The village illumination which is controllable by means of a central switch at the administration building burns the whole night long, at the wishes of the administration co-workers for the safety of the inhabitants and the security staff. We have the impression that there is no one willing to switch the lights off at 23.00hrs. It is not easy to explain that 16 lamps yield about 11 watts which amounts to 170 watts of power and is the equivalent to 7 hours of useless energy burning time over a whole kWh. In the administration building, a 30 W-lamp burns through the whole night, 10 hours quite useless, wasting 0, 3 KW. My explanation that one cannot scoop 15 litres from a 10 litre bucket did harvest some agreement at the village meeting. The consequences probably have to be learnt slowly and steadily as the demand increases. Moreover, wind and solar installation creates the impression of "free energy “with which the next problem is generated,: the funding of the electric power supply and formation of reserves.

5. 2. Refinancing. First draft and workshop

We developed a long term financial plan for the training and permanent employment of two technicians in the workshop of Debo in 2008, (see, report 2008 under 5. 2.-5. 4.): the two technicians use electricity in the workshop for sanding, drilling, repairing and hair cutting etc., which reimburses the technicians private wishes. In return the technicians service the power installation. However, over all revenues from electricity sales come into an electricity savings register (for diesel, substitute batteries), which is communally overseen through the educated "electricity commission “. Revenues result from the recharge service for lamps, as well as the electricity bill for the hospital and school counted by electricity meter. We hope for increased revenues particularly for the re-charging service (1 Bir per lamp charged) on account of the amount of lamps in the area and additionally the re-charging of mobile phones has recently also raised incomings considerably.

How did this system work?

It worked badly. The electricity cash register didn't have a single Bir in reserve. What had happened? The technicians complained about too few orders. The people in the village are not accustomed to letting something be done for them by others. However we get the impression that the technicians do not advertise their services, but wait until the work comes to them. Admittedly, there are also payment problems from the customers’ side. The commune itself gives a bad example of this. For the installation of the village illumination, the technicians should have received merely 2 Euros each. The technicians have still not been paid for their work. We repeatedly pointed out emphatically that craft persons are to be paid for everywhere in the world. Otherwise, nobody will be there to service the electro installation and in the end that would lead to a permanent power cut. However so far, no one apparently wants to think this far forward.

The situation continues to get worse, since not so many people bring their re-chargeable lamps to the workshop to re-charge but secretly re-charge them, at no cost, in the hospital and school. The technicians have drawn very little revenue for the re-charging of lamps. With that, revenues from the lamp service are not to be reckoned with in the future. We nevertheless believe that accumulator lamps will continue to be of further importance in Debo in years to come. The energy saving re-chargeable lamps with energy saving tubes have proved themselves less popular, (7 watts, battery flat, tube kaput). The better options are the lamps with LEDs these are more durable. We brought some of this type as supplies, (20 LEDs; 10 hr. of light time).The sale of the lamps proceeded however very hesitantly; since too many people found the start price of 7 Euro appeared too dear. We didn't want to give the lamps away. In the future we will hold back a little on the accumulator lamp offer.

The electricity revenues of the hospital had not been paid, although the hospital had held the money ready. The reason being, that nobody could write a receipt, appears very threadbare to us. The problem is that the "electricity commission “ had not followed its duties. This was also criticized very frankly in the village meeting.

How should electricity revenues be collected in the future?

On reason of the increase of capacity of the turbine installation, private houses can now be connected. We had thought of 20 cottages with three lamps each, up to 11 watts, and a socket for a small radio as well as possibilities for re-charging accumulator lamps. This connection must be contractually regulated and controllable. As reimbursement, a lump sum should be collected, from which the technicians also get a share. With this the interest of the technicians remains to take care of the connections. Hardly, had we made the suggestion in the village meeting, and preparations were being made, this resulted in a raffle action to select cottages (market region). However, one didn't cast lots for 20 cottages but 60 with the compromise that only one lamp should be installed per cottage. Reason: There would be more income and more families can have light. In principle no bad thought. However, the Electricity Commission had not considered that electricity will also be pulled from of 60 sockets at 60 cottages. Now there was no way of going back. One can only hope that enough money will come in, in order to be able to pay for the diesel for the emergency generator in the case of insufficient power supply. Here, one can be anxious. For the utilization of the electricity in private houses, we have drafted a text of the contract in Amharic.

Here are the main points of the contract

  • Connection can only take place through our technician 
  • The labour and the material charges for the installation of the connection are to be paid to the technicians by the private homeowner. 
  • Maximum load only 11 watts per connection for small radio or re-charging of accumulator lamps 
  • Only energy saving lamps are to be used. 
  • Prohibition of the connection of other appliances and TV 
  • Monthly payment of a standing charge of 20 Bir (?) 
  • The technicians’ rights to manage disconnection in the event of non-payment 
  • The technicians’ rights to be allowed to switch off power supply in the case of a power shortage, 
  • The technicians’ rights, to make regular checks of the power supply. 

With this the development of a lasting financial system,(our suggestions to the electricity commission of Debo, were for the financial division into percentages):

Finance concept for the maintenance of the energy installation in Debo

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